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15 Simple Exercises and 20 Easy Recipes That Keep Your Heart Healthy

15 Simple Exercises and 20 Easy Recipes That Keep Your Heart Healthy

We all try to keep healthy and it goes without saying that the most important part of us to look after is our hearts. With the continuing battle against our expanding waistlines, as a nation we’re all at a higher risk of heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels due to our lifestyles. So how can we make a change? What can we do to reduce or eliminate these health problems completely, and more importantly, what can we eat and enjoy that’s good for our hearts in the long term?

Exercise is extremely important in maintaining and obtaining a healthy lifestyle. However, confusion comes into play when we see all the different types of exercises we can do, the number of machines with different resistant levels and speeds and the daunting weight rooms, it’s no surprise we’d opt out and just stay in the comfort of our own homes. Understanding which exercises are best for you is key to establishing an effective workout routine that you’ll be able to stick to.

The 15 Simple Exercises

Cardio:

Cardio is a great form of exercise, especially because it comes in so many different variations. So why is it good for your heart? Any exercise that gets your heart rate up will increase blood flow, and good heart health is essential in ensuring blood flow happens easily around the body to keep all your other organs with a sufficient amount of blood. In the first 15–20 minutes of cardio exercises, your body will tend to burn excess carbohydrates, but into longer durations, your body will start to burn off fat. This is not only great news for your waistline but it will also reduce the amount of stress on your heart. This stress reduction will make it less likely for you to suffer from any type of cardiac arrest, attack or any other cardiovascular problems. After a while of doing cardio, you will notice a massive difference in how you’re feeling—walking up stairs won’t be as strenuous, you’ll be able to rush for that bus or train without getting completely flustered and you’ll also find that you have more energy and are sleeping better.

1. Walking

Walking is a great way to start off a cardio programme. Don’t make it a leisurely stroll; make sure you’re moving quickly—a brisk walk is ideal. Make sure you get that heart rate up & build a bit of a sweat up! Start off between 15–20 minutes a day if you can. If this is too much or not enough, change it to suit your individual needs. Remember not to jump in too much too soon, take your time and build yourself up gradually.

2. Running

If walking is too slow or easy for you, then you can try running or jogging. This will be sure to get your heart rate up! If you’re new to running, start off doing some interval work so you’re combining running and walking. Be sure to wear appropriate running shoes & if you can, try to run on grass first as it puts less pressure on your joints.

3. Hiking

If running is too much and walking is to boring then give hiking a go! Climbing up and down those slopes and across different terrains will get your heart going and you’ll certainly have nice view to distract you from all the work you are doing. Make sure you have the right, supportive footwear, a map of the route you’re taking and bring plenty of water too!

4. Cycling

Cycling is a great form of exercise and is exciting too with the places it can take you! Be sure to get your heart pumping again, you can do interval training on the bike too—just increase your pace or your gear for 30 secs–1 min then come back down to a lower level to rest and then do it again. Make sure you wear the required safety gear and use relevant traffic signals if you’re on the roads!

5. Rowing Machine

This is a sure-fire way to get your heart going and to burn fat. Rowing machines use the biggest muscles in the body: your legs and your back. So you can be sure that your heart will be working hard to get the blood flowing around your whole body. Be sure to strap your feet in properly, position yourself comfortably so you’re not putting so much stress on your back & remember to start off at a lower level to build yourself up—if you’re not sure you’re doing it right as a member of staff or a personal trainer & they’ll be happy to help!

6. Swimming

For those of you who have sore or fragile joints, swimming is an ideal form of cardio as it doesn’t put any pressure on your joints. You could also try water aerobics if you don’t like the idea of swimming up and down continuously. Always be sure to pace yourself in the pool and to stay out of deeper water if you’re not a confident swimmer.

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7. Skipping

Skipping is a fantastic way to get your heart pumping. It will only take a short amount of time before you begin to feel tired if you’re not used to it. But the good thing is that you don’t have to do a whole lot to reap the benefits. Start off by doing it in intervals; 10–20 secs for no less than 5 minutes and then work your way up to doing it in longer sets.

Strength Training

While cardio will help get your heart going, strength training will ensure it stays strong. This type of training is to build and strengthen muscles and seeing as your heart is a muscle it seems logical that this would benefit it. Having a strong heart muscle will mean that it’s under less pressure to pump blood around your body and can work with ease to keep you alive. Strengthening the walls of your heart will make it less likely for you’re to suffer from myocardial ruptures, which is where the walls of the heart can tear due to thinning or weakness.

8. Plank

Planks are great; they’re a full body static workout. By using multiple muscle groups your heart will have to work to ensure they all get the blood supply they need. Aim for 30 sec–1 min. If a full plank is too hard, start off in an elbow plank position and be sure to keep your back and bum in line and parallel to the floor.

9. Squats

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    With or without weights squats will get your heart going. They’re extremely effective in burning calories which means your heart is working to do so! Be sure to keep your back straight and don’t let your knees past the tip of your feet when you bend.

    10. Lunges

    Forward_Lunge_with_Twist

      Again it’s effective with or without a weight. Lunges are good for your abs because of the control in movement and balance but they also workout your legs which, as mentioned before, are one of the biggest muscles in the body and that means your heart is working hard to keep them moving! Remember to keep your back straight, moving slowly and fluidly with the motion.

      11. Mountain Climbers

      These are very effective but that also means they’re not easy! This exercise will work your core, your arms and your legs. Which is great news for your heart because it’ll have to work hard but so will you! Start off in a high plank position, then in alternating movement pull your knee towards your chest. Keep your neck neutral and your back and bum in line. Start off by doing 10 secs on 10 secs off for 1 minute until you get used to the motion.

      12. Bicycle Crunches

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      cycling-crunches-4bestabscrunches

        This will work mostly your core, but you’ll be using you’re back muscles and legs too to keep the momentum. This will definitely build up your heart and keep it strong! Start off lying on your back, bring your legs up into a 90-degree angle and lift your shoulders off the ground with your hands behind your head. In one motion bring your left knee up towards your right elbow that will be moving across to meet it; do this on the other side and alternate between them continuously for as long as you can. Be sure to keep your neck neutral and extend your legs fully.

        13. Machines

        If you get the chance to go to the gym you can use whatever weight machine you like. Each should get your heart rate up & heart working which will mean it’s getting stronger. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and double check with a member of staff if you’re unsure and with you doctor if you’re unsure if you should use them.

        Cardio and Strength Training Combined:

        You don’t have to do cardio and strength separately; you can combine them and it’ll more than likely be just as good, if not better for you! These types of exercises will get your heart rate up just as you would while doing cardio but incorporate strength elements to build muscles and keep you fit and strong. It’s also a good way to burn fat too—all of which will increase the health of your heart and getting your waistline looking smaller!

        14. Body-Pump Classes

        This challenges all of your major muscle groups by using the best weight-room exercises such as squats, presses, lifts and curls. I can guarantee that will get your heart going and will work muscles you didn’t even know you had. It is a very convenient class and you’ll be glad you went! Make sure you use the appropriate weights and listen to the instructor to ensure you’re doing all the exercises correctly.

        15. Circuit Training

        I personally love circuit training, it’s so much fun. You do a variety of exercises which will mean you’re using different muscle groups and thanks to the different exercises it means the intensity will vary with each. This will mean your heart will work harder during certain exercises and this is what will help make it stronger and help you to burn fat! Make sure you listen carefully to instructions and again use the appropriate weights.

        20 Healthy Foods & Recipes

        As I mentioned previously the importance of eating the right foods and finding that balance between food and exercise. One thing we must make sure is that we actually enjoy the foods we are eating. I’ve looked around and pulled up some of the best foods for your heart and some delicious recipes to go with them. So let’s get started!

        1. Oatmeal

        A great way to start your day is with a hot bowl of oats. They are full of omega-3 fatty acids and potassium. Oats are packed with fibre which will keep you full and it will also help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol which will keep your arteries clear! Add some fruit to add more flavour and work it up to include one of your 5-a-day. Find some more recipes here.

        2. Salmon

        Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which can effectively lower blood pressure and prevent clotting. Two servings a week can significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack. So how to incorporate into a meal? Try some grilled salmon, with some watercress, salad and a poached egg. Here is how to do it.

        3. Avocado

        I personally love avocado! It can lower bad cholesterol as it’s packed with monounsaturated fats. Use it as a substitute for butter and put it on your toast with a poached egg, chop it up and add it to your salad or mix it with a banana, some low fat yoghurt or milk and have it as a smoothie! Here is one of my favourites.

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        4. Olive Oil

        Again, packed with monounsaturated fats it will help lower cholesterol and reduced your risk of heart disease. Use it cooking instead of sunflower oil, drizzle it over some season chicken or drizzle it over some chopped up sweet potatoes baked in the oven to give them that crispy texture. Click here to find more ways to add olive oil to your meals.

        5. Nuts

        Here comes that omega-3 fatty acids again and being packed with mono and polyunsaturated fats only means good things for your heart! Nuts are full of fibre so are great as a snack in between meals or you could add them to your salad to add that crunchy element. Don’t think adding nuts is a great idea? Here is why it is.

        6. Berries

        Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or whatever berry you like will help keep your heart healthy. They are full of anti-inflammatories which help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Add them to your cereal, mix them up in a smoothie or have them as part of a healthy snack! Here is an easy way to mix it up berry style.

        7. Spinach

        Spinach is full with folate, potassium, lutein and fibre. This combination will help reduce your risk of heart disease significantly. It is also easily incorporated into your diet. Try Tortellini, a spinach pasta. Add some tomato and basil sauce and you will have one of your five a day and a healthy pasta dish which is satisfyingly filling! Dying to try it? Here is how it is done.

        8. Flaxseed

        That omega-3 fatty acid is here again but this time it’s matched with omega-6 fatty acids which will help lower that bad cholesterol even more! Sprinkle it over your oatmeal in the morning or add it to your salad for the ultimate healthy meals! Here is a whole range of ways to add flaxseed to your diet.

        9. Red Wine

        Yes, you did read that right! It says red wine! As opposed to lowering bad cholesterol red wine actually helps to raise levels of good cholesterol. But take this within reason. Too much red wine can also have a negative impact on your health so relaxing with a glass after a long day or having it with a meal is fine, just remember to drink it responsibly! Click here for some more information on red wine.

        10. Tuna

        Packed with nutrients, folate and omega-3 fatty acids tuna is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Tuna salad, with mixed leaves, some seeds and a drop of olive oil is a great dish for lunch or dinner and will do amazing things for your heart. Here is how to make it.

        11. Carrots

        Carrots contain alpha-carotene, a carotenoid, which helps protect your heart against disease and bad LDL. Shred some over your salad or chop some up and have it as a snack. It’s got fibre in it too so it will help keep you full in between meals! Not sure how to incorporate it? Check this article out.

        12. Broccoli

        Vitamin C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fibre broccoli is not only good for your heart but your health as a whole. A great recipe I found is baked potatoes, broccoli and cheese. It is delicious, worth the time it takes to cook and is packed full of goodness. Sounds good right? Well here is how to make it.

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        13. Edamame (Green Soy Beans)

        Soy protein can help lower blood triglyceride levels and lower bad cholesterol levels. Packed with fibre too they’re a great addition to a meals or as a tasty appetizer. Check out these easy edamame recipes.

        14. Tofu

        This is not exclusive to vegetarians. It’s packed with heart-healthy minerals and polyunsaturated fats which will help lower the risk of heart disease and lower that bad cholesterol. You can add it to your soup or mix it up in a stir fry! Try out this recipe.

        15. Sweet Potatoes

        Swap your white potatoes for these! They won’t spike your blood sugar levels and they’re full of fibre, vitamin A and lycopene which are all good in keep you and your heart healthy and free from diseases and clots. Try sweet potato fries; add some cinnamon, paprika or any seasoning to give it that extra added taste. Here is how to make them.

        16. Oranges

        These are rich in cholesterol fighting fibres and potassium which help control blood pressure and promotes good heart health. A refreshing glass of OJ can go a long way! You can even make your own marmalade and here is how.

        17. Barley

        The fibre in barley helps to lower bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels too. This can easily be added to stews, soups or replace it instead of white rice in your dinner. Check this out and thank me later!

        18. Low-Fat Yoghurt

        While yoghurts are usually associated with good bone health, low-fat yoghurts can help control high blood pressure levels. Add some fruit for a healthy snack or use it as a base in any smoothie recipe. Check out how to perfect it here

        19. Sardines

        Packed with omega-3s in the form of fish oils, sardines can increase the good cholesterol and reduces the risk of sudden heart attacks in those who have suffered from them before. Sardines go great in a salad, fresh is best but you can grill them too if you want to change it up a bit! Here is a great grilled sardine salad recipe.

        20. Green Tea

        Green has many flavors and is a great substitute if you want to kick that caffeine habit. Rich in antioxidants it will deliver a number of cardio benefits including reducing the risk of blood clots. So on these upcoming cold winter evenings, why not snuggle down with a nice cup of green tea? Find out more ways to use green tea here.

        Featured photo credit: Fitness woman ready for running at sunset or sunrise on beach. Female athlete in powerful starting line pose. via shutterstock.com

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        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

        Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

        I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

        You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

        Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

        When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

        I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

        Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

        Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

        Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

        1. The Inner Critic

        This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

        • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
        • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
        • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
        • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

        The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

        Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

        2. The Worrier

        This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

        The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

        3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

        This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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        This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

        The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

        4. The Sleep Depriver

        This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

        The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

        • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
        • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
        • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
        • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

        How can you control these squatters?

        How to Master Your Mind

        You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

        Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

        There are two ways to control your thoughts:

        • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
        • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

        This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

        The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

        Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

        For the Inner Critic

        When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

        You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

        For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

        You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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        “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

        If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

        • They rile up the Worrier.
        • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
        • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
        • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
        • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

        Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

        Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

        For the Worrier

        Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

        Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

        You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

        • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tense

        Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

        If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

        Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

        “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

        Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

        If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

        Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

        Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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        For example:

        If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

        “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

        Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

        “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

        Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

        For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

        Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

        The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

        • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tension

        I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

        Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

        Breathe in through your nose:

        • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
        • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
        • Focus on your belly rising.

        Breathe out through your nose:

        • Feel your lungs emptying.
        • Focus on your belly falling.
        • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

        Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

        Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

        One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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        Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

        For the Sleep Depriver

        (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

        I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

        Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

        1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
        2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

        When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

        From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

        For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

        If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

        You can also use this technique any time you want to:

        • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
        • Shut down your thinking.
        • Calm your feelings.
        • Simply focus on the present moment. 

        The Bottom Line

        Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

        You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

        Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

        More About Mental Strength

        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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